RIYADH: The equal prize funds available for the upcoming men’s and women’s golf tournaments in Saudi Arabia are creating a powerful statement about equality in sport, reigning champions Harold Varner III and Georgia Hall said as they prepare to defend their titles in the Kingdom over the coming weeks.
Varner and Hall were visiting Riyadh ahead of the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers (Feb. 2-5) and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF (Feb 16-19), to help spread the sport among a new generation of golfers at a special school clinic with boys and girls from Trbiyah Namouthajiyah School.
Hall, the 2018 Women’s British Open Champion, said: “Massive credit to Golf Saudi and the sponsors for raising the prize fund to match the men’s tournament now. It’s a massive step for the Ladies European Tour, for women’s golf, and hopefully that will help raise the bar for other tournaments and companies to do the same in the future.”
Meanwhile, Varner said: “Growing up I played golf so I can provide for my family. When players have the chance to make more money, I am happy for them. The women work so hard and commit everything to the game, so they are more than deserving of the opportunity. I’m thrilled for them and for the likes of Golf Saudi and the sponsors who do good things when they’re able to do good things.”
Talking about the growth of golf in Saudi Arabia, Varner III added: “To grow the game as professional golfers, the best thing we can do is be the best golfer. I holed that really long putt last year and people in Saudi Arabia know more about golf. Also, a cool part was being with the kids today — they’ll remember playing with Georgia and myself for a long time, they’ll be attached and hopefully carry on playing with the right opportunities.”
The PIF Saudi International, taking place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, has been a major draw for the world’s best players, with a prize fund of $5 million up for grabs. Varner III faces stiff competition from a strong field featuring major winners such as Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau at this year’s Saudi International, the opening event of the 2023 Asian Tour season in King Abdullah Economic City.
Hall has just as tough a challenge ahead as she prepares to defend her title at the same venue, with notable challengers including world No.1 Lydia Ko, No.4 Atthaya Thitikul, Ireland’s Leona Maguire and other big names in a field which features several of the world’s top 20 players.